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Leavell retires, creating vacancy in NM Senate

Sen. Carroll Leavell, R-Jal

SANTA FE — Republican Sen. Carroll Leavell — a member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee — resigned on Tuesday after nearly 22 years in office.

Leavell, who lives in Jal, said he decided to retire for health reasons.

“Jal is possibly the furthest city in the state from Santa Fe and I always had fun reminding folks of that,” he said in written statement. “Thank you Southeastern New Mexico for giving me the honor and the distinct pleasure to serve you at the State Capitol.”

The governor will appoint a replacement to finish his term, which ends in 2020.

The Lea and Eddy County commissions will nominate potential replacements, and the governor will pick one.

Leavell said he wasn’t certain whether Republican Gov. Susana Martinez — whose terms ends Dec. 31 — or incoming Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, will choose his successor.

In an interview, Leavell said he would like to be remembered in the Legislature as someone who highlighted the importance of the oil and gas industry, in addition to pushing for funding of highways.

He was also a key figure in this year’s passage of legislation to make $30 million available to help prevent the collapse of an old brine well in Carlsbad.

Democratic Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City will also step down before next month’s 60-day session. He was elected lieutenant governor.

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